There are nearly 200,000 people in Hawaii with unmet dental needs, more than twice the number who lack medical insurance. Moreover, almost half of all the people in Hawaii who earned less than $25,000 a year did not visit a dentist during the calendar year. As a result of this tremendous unmet need, emergency rooms are often filled with patients whose primary condition is related to their oral health. In the last six years alone, these emergency room visits related to oral health rose by almost 70%. In total, preventable hospital costs related to emergency room use and inpatient admissions cost the health care system in Hawaii over $17 million.
HPCA and its partners support restoration of adult dental benefits in Medicaid, which would save the health care system millions each year and contribute to improved overall health for vulnerable populations. In the interim, HPCA supports the work of health centers by regularly convening and facilitating technical assistance among dental professionals across the state.
For more information about our work with dental professionals at Community Health Centers, please contact our COO, Kathy Suzuki-Kitagawa.